Hacking Seoul

Here is an artist statement I wrote sometime in 2007 for Nomad.tv – Kontrol magazine.

Hacking Seoul
by Taeyoon Choi

Midnite Pieces is a network performance that attempts to decode familiar signs in urban spaces through a humorous intervention. A video feed from CCTV camera outside of the gallery space is showing a busy street in famous party district, Hong Dae area in Seoul. Audiences are watching the video feed projected inside the gallery The performer, dressed in a traffic police outfit, places several rubber cones in the center of the street. He controls the traffic to detour construction site which in fact doesn’t exist. Audiences enjoy the situation of random public struggling to go around the circle of rubber cones.

Urban play as personal amusement
I believe in art work’s social potential. Art can give happiness, heals sorrows, and brings light to the ones unseen and unheard. I would like to contribute to the society and public sphere by making art, but I don’t think making giant sculpture to sit in front of a building suits me. I would rather play games, harmless pranks or yell out honest messages. Fondness of playing grew out of natural tendency. I am a joker, with a bag full of tricks, living in a city constructed out of make-believe technology. My work is not political. It is critical on many issues of society, including politics. I prefer humor and poetics over straight forward message. My search for personal amusement is shared by many audiences, and hopefully it will become a social amusement one day.

Urban space as control mechanism
Street, a public space, is full of codes. Everyone is expected to follow the rules of codes. A driver must not speed under certain limit and a pedestrian can only walk in green light. There are many signs that remind us of the numerous codes that we must not pass by. Citizens of a metropolis take the cue from such signs. Their movements are fuzzy and endless, but the direction is meticulously controlled. Metropolitan’s action is limited to the behavioral library of codes. Every action is under control and extremely expected. The street is citizen’s stage and they are experienced actors. Institutions grow a person to become a skilled performer of urban codes. Everyone is acting all the time, in an urban public space.

We are a small mechanism of a specific society. A society exists by the rules of complex codes; for example language, method of expression, periphery of comfort. An individual is born into a family and grows up learning the codes in school, alley way, work place and social relationships. Even our most spontaneous behavior is a learned behavior. A foreigner finds many ordinary things exotic, because he is unaware of the code. Decoding common sign and manipulating it leads to interruption of an urban order. Rubber cones are usually used as to give warning of construction site or mark out the parking space. It is a sign claiming private ownership of a piece of public place. Pedestrians and drivers who encountered the ‘Midnite’ performance were fooled by the code and lead to behave in their usual rule, to go around the site.

CTR Cultural Topography Research Lab. Inc
CTR is an experimental research group based in Hong-dae area, the most artistic and culturally unique district in South Korea. Project ‘Playground’ is a 6 months long collaborative workshop on a single issue, participated by artists from visual art, installation, illustration, music and literature. The process and documentation of the artist’s work is the main focus. The project was presented as an exhibition, workshop and will be available in the CTR Playground publication in 2007.
Taeyoon Choi is an associate and participating artist of CTR. ‘Midnite Pieces’ was created with the CTR playground’s first project. ‘Midnite Pieces’ is a multi media project which includes text, visual, open source manual, and performance. The Midnite pieces 2.0 will be presented in 2007 as a city-wide game play using traffic control CCTV feed as a control mechanism and the urban space as a game board.


Video documentation
This text is especially written for Kontrol Magazine issue #1.
Urban Intervention 101 is a public workshop and manual by Taeyoon Choi.
Other artists dealing with the similar medium or message: New York Surveillance Camera PlayersLife: User’s Manual by Michelle Teran, Surveillance Drama by Yangachi.